BANGOR, Maine — City planning board members Tuesday approved construction of a five-story parking garage at Eastern Maine Medical Center, a decision that will save two historic structures opposite the hospital from demolition.
The project, estimated at $16 million, still needs approval of the Bangor City Council, but would add 650 spaces to the 160 spots already on the lot for a total of more than 800.
City planner David Gould said Wednesday that planning board members expressed some concern the new parking structure would increase traffic on State Street, but most fears were alleviated.
“This isn’t expected to create any more traffic than what has been created by the parking garage at Hollywood Slots,” Gould said. “And things are moving pretty smoothly there.”
The garage at Hollywood Slots Hotel and Raceway on Main Street, at 1,500 spaces, is believed to be the largest in Maine.
Even though the project has not been fully approved, work already has begun on utility infrastructure that runs underneath the existing lot. The new garage will be built adjacent to a three-story garage at the hospital campus. With council approval, construction will begin this fall.
The decision to build a new garage culminated months of discussion among city leaders and a neighborhood work group tasked to ease EMMC’s parking problem while saving two historic buildings, the Wing Estate and the Robinson House.
Hospital leaders had contemplated tearing the two buildings down to make space for parking and other needs before a group of community members formed to help preserve the structures as historical sites.
The Wing Estate is one of a few Gothic Revival-style houses remaining in the city and is nearly two centuries old. The Robinson House dates to the 1930s and sits on the property of the former Howard House, which was built in 1781. It is believed to have been the first frame house in Bangor.
City and hospital leaders hope the new garage helps alleviate a serious parking crunch. As it stands, the hospital has 2,061 parking spaces on its State Street campus, or about 535 fewer spaces than it needs for its patients, visitors and staff.
Many employees currently park off-site and ride shuttle buses to the hospital, costing about $500,000 annually.